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The fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, has never completed a mile.

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The world’s fastest man and six-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt has never completed a mile. This week, Bolt’s agent, Ricky Simms, confirmed the information to the New Yorker, shocking many and giving many people who have run a mile a pat on the back. However, it comes as no surprise at all to those in the running community.

Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt

Bolt is a sprinter who competed in the 200-meter, 100-meter, and 4 x 100-meter relay events at the 2016 Summer Olympics for Jamaica. To clarify: When Bolt runs in the 200-meter event, he is only covering, at most, about 12 percent of a mile since a mile is made up of 1,609 meters. Furthermore, compared to a mid- or long-distance runner who is engaging in aerobic exercise, someone running that short of a distance is using a different energy system—anaerobic.

To put it simply (because this stuff is complicated), aerobic exercise is the process by which muscles use oxygen to generate energy, which enables you to move for longer periods (think swimming or cycling). Muscles require energy during anaerobic exercise (think weightlifting and sprinting) more quickly than oxygen can supply it, so energy is produced by the breakdown of glucose, also known as sugar. Bolt wouldn’t benefit from going the extra mile in his training because sprinting and mid-distance running are two different sports with two completely different training regimens.

Debora Warner, the creator of the Mile High Run Club and a certified running coach, tells SELF that “power is a combination of strength and speed, and power is what’s important for a sprinter.” “Endurance doesn’t play into that…[Bolt] wouldn’t necessarily benefit [from running a mile], and I think it could be potentially detrimental because as an Olympic athlete, 100 percent of his energy needs to go to [improving] what he’s doing.”

Because sprinters, like Bolt, put a lot of effort into developing their strength, which helps them generate the necessary power, Warner claims that sprinters are typically more muscular than distance runners. In contrast, distance runners typically weigh less, which helps them have more endurance. In order to perfect the push at the end of their races, mid- to long-distance runners, unlike sprinters, will train both their anaerobic and aerobic systems.

Mile High Run Club coach and former Track and field Olympian John Henwood tells SELF that “distance runners need to be able to sprint at the end of the race, so we have to work both systems.” “Sprinters don’t need to run slowly at the end of the race, so they just work the anaerobic system.”

In 2013, Bolt shared his training regimen with GQ, which included a lot of weight training in the gym. This makes sense because strength is a prerequisite for power. Henwood observes that sprinters typically combine strength training with on-track exercises, despite the fact he is not a sprint coach in particular. Accordingly, Bolt might be able to complete a mile-long sprint in a practice week, or depending on his training regimen, he might even be able to complete the distance in a single day. We might never know the precise details until we see his entire training regimen. Men’s Fitness commissioned former professional sprinter Steven Benedict to design a sprinter’s workout program. The track workout consisted of two 150-meter sprints, one 250-meter sprint, and eight 200-meter sprints, all of which added up to well over a mile.

What would occur, then, if Bolt attempted a mile-long sprint? Because he isn’t built for endurance and is carrying more weight—all that muscle!—than most mid-distance runners, Henwood believes the fastest man in the world wouldn’t break any records (the current fastest time is 3:43). In addition, if he started running quickly, his body would have to use the anaerobic energy system and he might begin to accumulate lactic acid in his muscles as a result of low oxygen levels. These physical consequences could cause him to slow down. He would still most likely outpace you in speed.

 

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